China’s CMOC Group said on Monday July 10th that it has resumed exports of copper and cobalt from its TFM mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the first confirmation of shipments after it resolved a dispute with the state miner in April.
Exports from the Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) operation, which in 2021 supplied 10% of the world’s cobalt, were halted in July 2022 after a row erupted with state miner Gecamines over mineral royalty payments.
The dispute was resolved in April, but at the time, neither side disclosed when shipments would resume.
“TFM copper and cobalt products are currently being exported and sold normally as planned,” Vincent Zhou, a CMOC Group spokesperson, said on Monday.
Exports from TFM’s stockpile resumed on April 29, Zhou said.
Gecamines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CMOC plans to sell copper and cobalt from the stockpile it built up since July last year according to market needs, rather than looking for quick sales, Zhou said.
Cobalt prices on Comex have fallen 40% since late July 2022, when exports from the Congo mine were suspended, but are flat compared with late April, when CMOC and Gecamines said they had reached an agreement on royalties.
“Most of the TFM cobalt products have long-term supply agreements, and the rest of the products will be sold according to global market conditions, which is not expected to have a significant impact on the price,” Zhou said.
CMOC said it produced 254,286 metric tons of copper and 20,286 metric tons of cobalt from the operations in Congo last year.
“The resumption of copper exports from TFM will add to supply,” WisdomTree analyst Nitesh Shah said.
“But as sales from stockpiles were already taking place from April, the incremental increase in supply shouldn’t be overstated.”
The thaw in tensions between CMOC and Gecamines comes as the Chinese miner starts operations at KFM, formerly known as Kisanfu, one of the world’s largest and highest-grade copper and cobalt mines, also in Congo.
CMOC has carried out trial production at KFM, where it is aiming to produce 70,000 to 90,000 metric tons of copper and between 24,000 and 30,000 metric tons of cobalt this year, Zhou said.
Congo is the world’s top cobalt supplier and no. 3 copper producer after Peru and Chile.
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